Reviews Best AR-15 Pistols Buyer’s Guide  David Lane February 6, 2024 Join the Conversation BEST AR-15 PISTOLS Best Budget Pick: PALMETTO STATE ARMORY AR-15 PISTOL Best Value: PALMETTO STATE ARMORY SABRE Best CHF Barrel: DANIEL DEFENSE DDM4 V7 P Best Piston: SIG SAUER MCX-SPEAR LT PISTOL Best QC: BCM RECCE-11 The rise of the AR-15 rifle has been followed, and in my ways replaced, by the rise of the AR-15 pistol. More than just a legal loophole, the AR-15 pistol gives you a range of benefits with limited tradeoffs. But the market is flooded and if you’re looking for what pistol is right for it, it can be hard to sort the good from the bad. We’ve shot nearly all of them and put more than our share through the wringer, here are the best AR-15 pistols! PISTOL VS. RIFLE If you’re new to this you might be thinking, why bother with getting a pistol AR? Well, it’s shorter. That’s basically it. An AR pistol has most of the benefits that an AR rifle has, except it is shorter, easier to handle in close spaces, lighter weight, and easier to pack. The downside is that you’re left with a “brace” instead of a “stock” but that isn’t a big deal these days. The real downside is that with a shorter barrel comes a loss of ballistics. Longer barrels mean higher muzzle velocity and mean better ballistics and more range. That’s just physics. Best Barrel Length At 16 inches and over is considered a rifle, so pistol ARs are normally looking at anything from 7 inches to 14.5 inches. While 13.7-and 14.5-inch barrels can technically be pistol barrels, they generally aren’t used as such. Normally, these barrel lengths are used for pin and weld muzzle devices that get a total length up to 16 inches to be considered rifles. The most common barrel lengths for AR pistols in 5.56 NATO are 10.3, 10.5, 11.5, and 12.5 inches. Both 10.3- and 10.5-inch barrels were made popular because of the MK18 and, practically speaking, are the same thing. Each offer decent dwell time, good reliability, and okay ballistics. For slapping steel, this is fine out to 400 yards or so. But on meat targets, the ballistics fall off after about 50-75 yards. An 11.5-inch barrel gives a decent bump in muzzle velocity and pushes the ballistics on meat to about 100 yards. The increased dwell time also improves long-term reliability and reduces wear on components. A 12.5-inch barrel is long enough for mid-length gas systems making for a softer shooting gun, a bit more muzzle velocity, and even less wear on parts. All of these can be suppressed, but 11.5- and 12.5-inch barrels do best with cans. Tuning your system will be required no matter what if you want to run suppressed. My vote, 11.5- and 12.5-inch barrels are the best by a good margin. While 10.3- and 10.5-inch are cool for clone builds, but my go-to pistol is a 12.5-inch barrel. PALMETTO STATE ARMORY AR-15 PISTOL This is really as bare bones as you can get, but that isn’t a bad thing. For around $500 you can pick between 5.56, 300 BLK, 7-, 10.5-, 11.5-inch barrels, SBA3 brace, BTR brace, black, OD green, FDE, and a ton of other options — all without breaking the bank. It’s simple, basic, PSA. You really can’t go wrong here for the price. PSA PA-15 Pistol with SIG Sauer MSR Red Dot Personally, I would recommend 5.56, MOE furniture, SBA3 brace, and at least 10.5-inch barrel. The rest you should choose based on personal taste. This is a budget pick and with that comes a little bit of a dice roll. While I never trust any gun out of the box 100 percent, I would be more aware of a budget gun than some others. Give it a good range day or two to make sure it is running well. After that, you’re good to go. PALMETTO STATE ARMORY SABRE The “SABRE” line is PSA’s upgraded line that uses mostly other brand parts, but is assembled by PSA on PSA receivers. This gives you a great entry into upgraded “duty” ARs, but at a lower price than you can get on your own. The SABRE rifles I've tested have been outstanding. When it comes to the pistol SABREs, there are a lot of options. Stock and selection changes as PSA moves inventory, but any of them will be solid options. PSA SABRE with two-piece quad rail, FSB, Lead & Steel Promethan red dot, and Magpul M3 PMAGs My SABRE pistol 10.5-inch barrel capped by a SABRE compensator with a FSB and two-piece quad rail. The BCG is made for PSA by MicroBest, trigger is Hiperfire RBT, and the safety is my favorite the Radian Talon. Charging handle is also by Radian. I don’t love the Magpul BTR brace, but that’s pretty minor and easy to change if you want. I picked the model with a FSB just for the aesthetic, but a free-float rail is likely a better choice if you want pure performance. DANIEL DEFENSE DDM4 V7 P Out of the box, the DDM4 V7 P is a solid pistol that will serve you well. But I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think it’s a great value. MSRP is a crazy $1,965, but the street price normally floats around $1,500. That’s… a bit much. The DDM4 V7 P isn’t really special. While DD makes very reliable and robust ARs, you’re paying a brand tax that doesn’t live up to the hype like it used to. A cold hammer-forged barrel is nice to have, but it isn’t as big of a deal as it used to be. The barrel is 10.3 inches, the trigger is milspec, and the brace is SBA3. The 9-inch MFR handguard is very good, but again that isn’t all that special these days. If you want a pretty no-nonsense AR pistol that is legitimately duty-grade and trusted by professionals, and you don’t mind paying a bit extra for the name, the DDM4 V7 P is a solid choice. SIG SAUER MCX-SPEAR LT PISTOL Technically not an AR-15, but it’s close enough that we’ll count it. The MCX-SPEAR LT is SIG’s latest iteration of their piston-driven not-an-AR that uses a form factor almost identical to an AR. An 11.5-inch barrel using a short-stroke piston and a fully ambi receiver, the SPEAR LT is a sweet package and a wonderfully shooting pistol. And you can get a folding brace for it! Downside? A lot of the parts are proprietary so there is very limited aftermarket and it’s expensive with a street price of around $2,300. Ouch. Pure performance, it might be hard to justify that kind of money for this gun if this is your first AR pistol. Personally, I would go a different direction for your first. But if you’re looking to drop some money on something kind of special, a little different, but something you know will run like a rented mule, the SPEAR LT is a solid option. BCM RECCE-11 A great 11.5-inch option from the company that almost single-handedly convinced the world that the 11.5-inch barrel was the best choice, and I would agree. BCM RECCE-11 is extremely simple but outstandingly reliable and robust. Built on their outstanding QC, BCM never fails to turn out a rifle or pistol that simply works. A BCM lemon isn’t impossible, but it’s incredibly rare. Mid-length gas, chrome lined barrel, BCM Mod 0 compensator, but with no brace — the RECCE-11 is what you need and nothing you don’t. The downside is that these have gone way up in price over the last couple of years and at a street price of around $1,500… that’s kind of a lot for what you get. While I like the 11.5-inch barrel better, if I’m spending that kind of money on an AR pistol I’d take the DDM4 V7 P for the drip. If you’re looking for a better value, I highly recommend BCM’s complete uppers. Throw one of those on any pistol AR lower you want for cheap and you’ll have 98 percent of the reliability and durability of a complete BCM firearm for almost half the price. Explore RECOILweb:How To: Positional Shooting with Barry DueckBravo Concealment BCA 3.0 OWB Holster IntroducedRestoring a Springfield M1903A3Mantis X10 Elite Review NEXT STEP: Download Your Free Target Pack from RECOILFor years, RECOIL magazine has treated its readers to a full-size (sometimes full color!) shooting target tucked into each big issue. Now we've compiled over 50 of our most popular targets into this one digital PDF download. From handgun drills to AR-15 practice, these 50+ targets have you covered. Print off as many as you like (ammo not included). Get your pack of 50 Print-at-Home targets when you subscribe to the RECOIL email newsletter. We'll send you weekly updates on guns, gear, industry news, and special offers from leading manufacturers - your guide to the firearms lifestyle.You want this. 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